By ERIC SCHELKOPF
Those who spent any time at Chord on Blues in St. Charles knows the electricity Anthony Gomes creates on stage.
Gomes was a regular at the club, which closed several years ago. So it should come as no surprise that in November 2017, Gomes won Best Musician (Performance) at the 37th Annual European Blues Awards. And he was named "One of the Top Ten Guitarists in the World" by Music Taster's Choice.
People can see and hear for themselves when the Toronto born musician at 9 p.m. April 14 at Brauerhouse, 1000 N. Rohlwing Road, Lombard. Tickets are $15 in advance, $20 at the door, available at ticketfly.com.
I had the chance to talk to Gomes about his career and the upcoming show.
Q – As far as what people should expect from the show, are you going to play from all 11 of your albums?
Yeah. Of course, we're supporting our latest release, "Electric Field Holler." We'll do that, and then a couple new songs. We're working on a new album, and sort of testing them out.
Q – You've gotten a lot of attention lately. Music Taster's Choice named you "One of the Top Ten Guitarists in the World." What do you say about something like that?
That was quite the honor, for them to say that. First of all, it's nice to be acknowledged. And there's so many wonderful players out there.
It's really hard to judge what the best is. But to be acknowledged is certainly an honor. And it's something to be proud of, to be recognized for your craft.
We'll take it anyway we can get it.
Q – Of course, you were also named Best Musician (Performance) at the 37th Annual European Blues Awards. What do you try to do in your live shows?
Well, we're trying to move people. We're trying to move people emotionally and make them feel good, make them feel alive, make them feel happy, make them feel sad, and at the end of the day, feel uplifted that they came to a show.
I think that a good concert is almost like a sacred experience. It's a musical event, and it channels you and it takes you someplace else.
It's more than a collection of favorite songs being presented. It's a moving, interactive experience, an exchange of energy and ideas through music.
Q – What about those people who are videotaping the entire concert using their cell phone? Is that distracting?
No, not for me. They just make us work harder. You're going to put your cell phone down, and say, "Damn, I forgot to record."
Q – You released "Electric Field Holler" in 2015. It seems like there should be a story behind the name of the album.
Yeah, well, field holler is the origins of the blues. The blues grew out of field hollers, songs that people were singing while working in the fields.
And a lot of times they were a way to deal with the harsh conditions. To me, that's the beginning of the blues.
It's another way of saying blues. It's my way of saying blues rock, or electric blues, or taking those field hollers and bringing them into the future, with electric instruments.
To me, it all deals with the blues, the past, the present and the future.
Q – You are a blues history scholar. Do you believe it's important for people to be educated on the roots behind blues music and do you try to do that through your music?
I understood Jimi Hendrix a lot more when I understood about B.B. King and Robert Johnson. He made a lot more sense to me, just because I could trace the music. So yeah, it's pretty important.
If it wasn't for all the ancestors of music, I wouldn't be playing the music that I'm playing. When I'm playing, I'm playing on the souls and arms and backs of all these great people that came before me. And when I'm gone, people will continue to do so.
Q – Morgan Freeman joked that you were "not bad for a white guy." Where did he see you?
In Clarksdale, Mississippi. He owns a club called Ground Zero, a blues club. And he would go there and hang out.
He is such a wonderful person and a very kind man. It was a pleasure to meet him.
Q – You've shared the stage with the likes of B.B. King and Buddy Guy. What have you learned from being on the stage with them?
It's a master class, just being in their presence. You're in awe. You are sitting there with your heroes.
They're your superheroes. B.B. King was my superman. And there I am, standing next to him. And it's like so surreal.
Q – And it seems like a project that's very near and dear to you is your Music Is the Medicine Foundation, which you started in 2010. Have you seen the foundation do a lot of good over the years?
Yeah, you know, we started out very humbly, and now we've grown to do some amazing things. In the beginning, we presented some instruments and instruction.
We had this one gentleman who had post traumatic stress disorder. And he couldn't speak for years. And he got a guitar, and in these lessons, he started to speak again, because music was a gateway to open up communication.
And the most recent thing we're doing is we're working with a choir made up of mentally ill patients in Montreal at Montreal General Hospital. And we have now raised enough money to supply them in a recording studio, a fully functioning recording studio in this hospital so this choir can make albums.
We've done some really cool things to spearhead music therapy and using music as a healer.
Q – Because you do believe that music can heal.
Absolutely. Every night we play, I see people that are reacting, crying or smiling or laughing.
Music can change the temperature in the room. Music is such a powerful, moving force.
Sometimes, as an artist, you get so caught up in the art and how many records are you selling and your chart position that you forget there is a much bigger thing attached to the music.